The Wrap recently sat down with comedian and actress Margaret Cho to chat about her upcoming guest stint on Ken Jeong’s sitcom Dr. Ken. Between that show, Fresh Off The Boat, and Quantico, ABC has become the first network in history to have three concurrent shows with Asian leads. And The Wrap asked Cho to reflect on how far TV has come since her show, All American Girl, become the first (and for 20 years, only) family sitcom about Asian-Americans. She explains:
It’s a powerful thing because I created the first Asian-American family show 25 years ago and then helped a little bit on Fresh Off The Boat and now I’m helping a little bit on Dr. Ken. It’s a good feeling that my hard work was not for nothing. There’s also Sullivan & Son which preceded these shows on TBS. All of these shows are really part of my legacy. They’re all my shows because they were all inspired by me and I’ve been on all of them.
Cho also says “diversity” is a word she’s come to “despise” because, “It’s still the white status quo defining who we are to entertainment. They’re including us because they have to. Fuck that!” But unlike others who use the idea of “artistic merit” to justify homogeny, Cho has a slightly different point of view: “If we judge work its own merit artistically, you would see diversity happen naturally.” She also adds:
If you’re an artist of color, a woman of color, if you’re a woman at all in entertainment, you have to work a million times harder than men to get noticed. The fact is our projects are infinitely better because we’ve had to fight through internalized racism, homophobia and sexism, and also the whole not allowing us to be visible. Now that’s shifted due to so much programming. I’m grateful to be part of that shift, but I’m saying diversity is not enough.
She cites Transparent as an example of the shift away from tokenism. “It’s not a show about diversity,” Cho explains, “It’s about family, that just happens to include this story about somebody transitioning, and that is so beautiful and powerful. And that is something that actually saves lives.” She also touches on a whole bunch of different subjects, including the infamous Vanity Fair spread that documented the all-male line-up of late night talk show hosts; Cho calls it a “truly feminist act,” adding, “It showed the incredible misogyny in late night in a very innocent looking picture.”
Cho says she would love to lead her own show again and has a couple of different projects in development at the moment. But she emphasizes that none of them are about diversity, they just happen to include it. “The diversity angle of it is that I’m telling stories about my family and telling stories about my people, whoever that is,” Cho explains. “I’m finally up to the level of mainstream, white straight male artists, that’s what I get to do now.”